Burning the Bridge to Nowhere (a note on target markets)

I’m Tom. For the last year and a half I have been writing the feature Observations of the Unemployed[1] . My writing has gotten less shit in the last two years and now, like many writers, I’m wrestling with ways to get it to reach a national audience. Seems everyone and their dog are quick to jump on the writing bandwagon these days and even quicker to let you know they’re a ‘writer’. They tell you while you sit thumbing a pint hoping they leave you alone… there are no doubt many other outlets for their work than in my ear, at a bar, after a long day… So, as a preventative measure, here’s one of them.

There are numerous production opportunities that promise practical experience of broadcast writing and production to those willing to work for free. The BBC accepts applications for T.V and radio production placements regardless of formal qualifications. Getting a foot-in-the-door at a radio station will no doubt serve your writing far more effectively than slurring it across a bar like some quasi-intellectual in search of a sense of identity… Find a format; find an outlet and standout from an ocean of low-quality Youtube channels, mediocre bloggers(ironic, I know) and apply. That’s all you’ve got to do.

Don’t apply for placements on some vague pretence that they will lead to fame or wealth. Writing may well have a commercial byproduct, but as Stewart Lee quite rightly points out ‘nothing any good was written with a view to making money.’ You have to believe in what you want to do… You need something to write about; ‘it’s not enough to know which notes to play, you have to know why they need to be played.’ Write something worth writing, show something worth seeing. If you write situational comedy, convey the beauty and tragedy of the situation. Existence is an oxymoron, a balance of matter, positive and negative, good and evil, life and death. Sometimes it’s hard, yes, but good writing would parody that, if for no other reason than to maintain the balance.

Words are your weapons as writers and you should fight tooth and nail to preserve language, in all its forms, from restrictive political legislation and the censorship that strives to control it. Writing should challenge bureaucracy that dumbs-down free-thought and leaves only a small preapproved, prepackaged and prescribed window for ‘acceptable work’ (one seemingly void of creativity, originality and logic.) The legislators know ‘You have nothing to fear from the poet but the truth’ so, now the poets must disguise themselves as something seemingly less dangerous; clowns, comedians, staff writers, journalists, anything that allows them to wage their subtle form of warfare unabashed by the perpetuating problems of political language.

It’s ironic that imposed linguistic regulations, the politically correct war-on-words, only serves to drive the artist, poet, writer, comedian, what ever you want to call them, to more ‘politically incorrect’ territory in a desperate bid to show the absurdity of it all. But I guess irony is a stimuli and bureaucracy’s the straight man writers can play off… Tit for tat.

 

A Note on ‘Target Markets’

 

So, you’ve got away from plugging yourself as a writer to people who couldn’t careless, and you’ve gone and landed an interview for a production team, but what to do next? As you’ll no doubt start to be exposed to corporate terminology like ‘target markets’ and ‘audience awareness’… I would be inclined to state my opinions on such writing models from the offset and make clear the differences I see between writing and writing for markets.

Yes, I agree viewing figures can be analysed and applied to future productions to ensure large demographics are catered to, in turn increasing the chance of greater ratings. That’s business. That’s fine. But statistics can’t be gathered accurately on niches that haven’t yet been explored, thus potential markets go unseen. They go unseen because the kind of writers that create ‘great’ work don’t create it for audience approval. They create what they believe needs to be created. If they are articulate and insightful and not just deluded, audience approval and increased ratings follow. Ladies and gentleman I give you… Black Mirror.

In regard to appealing to the ‘ideal demographic’, the most successful movie genre at the moment is action/adventure, (although huge ticket sales tend to be matched by huge budgets.) People like movies where things blow up, I guess- boom-boom movies. According to New York Times best-seller, Tom Robbins, we like explosions for a reason, they’re representative; ‘Its freedom, freedom from the material world’. With this in mind, all a writer needs to do to cover the largest demographic of all is address the cultural and economic factors that cause us to feel so trapped that we take such manifest joy from ‘the explosion’.

In this modern age of high-speed broadband, 24-hour shopping, shift patterns and immediacy, the old ways of writing are becoming disjointed. Humour now, on so many panel shows at least has become forced, more like intellectual cock-measuring with vague references to literary and social figures only serving to qualify the speaker. Truly great writing stands alone, on its own merit, and by the very act of doing so qualifies itself.

Fortunately, aspiring writers now were born in a time where if they write accurately with an emphasis on the balance between comedy and tragedy, a living can be made out of it… just…. if written with artistic merit, humour can be used to educate an audience and prompt the realisation that comedy, at its best, echoes the tragedy of reality. Therefore, the job of this writer is to educate those yet to see the prophetic content of comedy, while hopefully getting a laugh and a pay-cheque along the way.

So…In reluctant conclusion there is a large demographic not being catered for, that of the disenfranchised… those who know innately their love of the boom-boom movie is a metaphor for their desire to destroy a monotonous and mediocre life… If a ‘market’ is to be made of them, it will be through writers who can not only identify but convey the common thread that holds our individually disjointed lives together. Bukowski once said, ‘Given the proper moment and the proper writers, there will one day be a literary explosion…’ Let’s hope it’s now and he wasn’t just referring to an action movie…

[1] Contrary to popular belief, (I was once reported to the benefits office by a seedy little man as a benefit cheat due to the feature’s title and his inability to grasp basic metaphors) I do work. I don’t claim dole. I just thought it was a good title. Though I did once workout that I’d be £5 better off a week if I did claim dole but five quid didn’t seem worth the hassle, so I carried on turning up to work.

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